Ani has been hearing God’s call since she was 13 years old. With frequent interaction with Christian friends, sometimes she would hear Bible verses running through her head. Even when she was only an elementary school student, she was curious about faith. One time, a teacher talked about Heaven in class. Little Ani asked, “Where is Heaven?” Her teacher only responded, “Heaven is above.” Ani was not satisfied with that answer and asked for more details. What do we do in Heaven? Who can go to Heaven? What does Heaven look like? Unfortunately, the teacher was unable to answer any further.
Not far from her house lived a Christian family with a daughter. Ani often played with her and sometimes would even stay at her home. Naturally, she compared this family with her own. She noticed a lot of differences: their family is very harmonious and she was impressed. They always prayed together in the morning when they woke up, during meals, and before they ended the day. She could tell that they loved each other.
In Ani’s family, it is an entirely different atmosphere. Her father is a Muslim Kejawen (ethnic Javanese who also practices traditional spiritual teaching), whereas Ani’s paternal family members are devout Muslims in East Java. Many of his father’s relatives graduated from Gontor Islamic Boarding School, one of the well-known Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia. Her mother is a Muslim who adheres only to religious teachings, not traditional rituals. The striking difference between the families made Ani wonder, “Who is this God worshiped by those Christians?”
Each family member chose their own religious practice, only Ani decided to be active in the mosque. Of all the family members, only Ani seriously followed Islam. The Qur’an lessons are usually divided into two categories: those who learn the regular Qur’an as if learning to read in Arabic script. But there is also another category: Tajweed (learn how to sing it since a different melody holds a different meaning), which is reading the Qur’an with precise rules as stipulated in the holy book. In fact, this category studies the Qur’an more deeply with its interpretations. Ani learned Tajweed.
Ani also joined one of the well-established Muslim organizations, IPM (Muhammadiyah Student Association) at the age of 10 and was often involved as a volunteer in activities held by the HMI (Islamic Student Association). She also joined a movement called “greening,” where community members are encouraged to approach non-Muslim friends and invite them to learn about Islam and influence them to become Muslims.
Strange but true, even though Ani was active in Islamic activities, Ani also had Christian friends and enjoyed spending time with these Christians. They were very welcoming and friendly. Ani loved listening to Christian songs. Sometimes, Ani joined the worship services and heard testimonies from Muslims who became followers of Jesus. These testimonies stirred her heart and her curiosity grew. Moreover, to be frank, Ani was more comfortable around Christian friends.
Interestingly, there was one thing that kept Ani from becoming a follower of Jesus. Ani noticed a young man who often prayed at the mosque near her house. She was attracted to him. This man was why Ani persisted in going to the mosque even though her heart preferred to hang out with Christian friends. This was also the reason Ani got serious about studying the Qur’an and the Bible in order to find the truth.
One day, Ani had to see a psychiatrist, because she often sensed that Qu’ran and Bible were talking in her mind. The conflicting views concerned her. But she was sent away by the doctor as there was nothing he could do.
Ani decided to admit to her family that she often heard the sounds of the two holy texts in her head and was disturbed by it. Ani told her sister her struggle, and her older sister even supported Ani becoming a follower of Jesus.
But then Ani was brought to an ustaz (a religious teacher) to receive prayer. When he was praying, Ani became unconscious. She saw a light shining unto her forehead, and there was a shape of the cross. After she regained consciousness, the ustaz said that during the manifestation, Ani was calling on Jesus’s name. Step by step, she walked closer toward Him.
When Ani decided to become a follower of Jesus, she sought permission from her family. Ani asked God to open a way. From her sister to her father, they gave their approval, her father was not angry either. In fact, her father told her that he had been visited by Jesus with a crown of thorns. Even at her baptism, Ani’s father accompanied her to be baptized.
Nevertheless, her newfound faith was not always appreciated. When Idul Fitri (the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”) came, Ani informed her relatives of her conversion to Christianity at a family gathering. They did not accept it. They put a notice on the newspapers with the false statement that Ani converted to Christianity because she was impregnated by a Christian man. They incited Ani’s father to attack her.
Under the influence of the relatives for the humiliating news, Ani’s father hit her. Ani almost died. When her father grabbed a knife with rage, Ani’s sister, who was pregnant, put her body between him and Ani to save her. The strange thing Ani realized was, as a bold and mentally strong woman, she did not fight back at all and was able to stay calm and silent during this attack. God was with her.
At other times, Ani’s neighbors became hostile to her. Ani usually sold cakes called Jalangkote, which is a South Sulawesi fried pastry, for a living. People would come to steal the cake they wanted without paying. There was no resistance from Ani. Over time, things returned to normal, and Ani has continued to grow in her faith to this day.
Ency, a field worker in Indonesia, commented on Ani’s testimony, “There are different seasons someone faces whenever they become Christians: persecution and rejection. When they became followers of Jesus, suddenly people around them turned to attack and hurt them because of the shocking news and as a form to show their disappointment. But after that, if that person endured, the persecution subsided. But the rejection still continued. Usually, rejection ends when those who follow Jesus show love because love never fails.”
For Muslim-background believers in Indonesia, this is the price they pay for their faith. Yet they continue to follow Jesus. No turning back.
International Christian Concern
Photo: International Christian Concern